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Web.com CEO talks “defensive” .web strategy

Number-three registrar Web.com applied for the new gTLD .web in order to protect a trademark, but it’s open to partnerships to secure and manage the string, according to its CEO.

But the .web contention set will take a “considerable amount of time to be resolved”, David Brown told analysts during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call last night.

“The way we’ve always thought about .web is that given that we have a trademark on the name Web.com, we really needed to apply for .web in order to protect our trademark,” he said.

“In order to protect our trademark globally, we needed to basically defend ourselves by applying for .web, and we’re certainly interested in getting it, but it’s not our core business,” he added.

Web.com, which also owns Network Solutions and Register.com, is one of seven applicants for .web.

But the company did not file any Legal Rights Objections against its competitors, as its trademark may have permitted, reflecting a slightly relaxed attitude to the string that also came across in the yesterday’s call.

Brown said, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript:

We’ll be perfectly content if anyone gets .web because they’re going to distribute it through us, and it’s our name, and we’re advertising and building a brand in the marketplace, and we’re going to be a great deliverer of .web extensions, whoever gets it, whether it’s us or someone else.

He indicated that the ultimate winner of .web is likely to be some kind of cooperative arrangement between applicants. He said:

Our strategy has always been to cooperate. And so we’ve looked at the people who have applied, and we certainly are talking to all of them about who would benefit from this and which team would be the best team to provide services, and so that would be our strategy… We won’t bear the full load of the economics of acquisition ourselves likely. It’ll likely be shared.

To me, this screams “joint venture”, which has always been the way I’ve seen .web pan out. If you recall, when Afilias was formed to apply for .web in 2000, it was a joint venture of many leading registrars of the time.

Brown also said on the call that he expects to see the first new gTLDs get approved in the fourth quarter, but they’ll be the uncontested ones and therefore not particularly lucrative.

Web.com could also be the beneficiary of marketing dollars spent by new gTLDs to secure shelf space, he said.

Whacky lawsuit targets ICANN, eNom, CentralNic, NetSol, Verisign

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2012, Domain Registrars

ICANN and several domain name companies have been slapped with a bizarre, virtually incomprehensible anti-cybersquattng lawsuit in Virginia.

Canadian Graham Schreiber, registrant of landcruise.com, has beef primarily with CentralNic — the UK-based company that sells third-levels domains under us.com, uk.com and the like — and one of its customers.

As far as I can tell, the complainant, who’s representing himself pro se, has issues with CentralNic’s entire business model. Here’s his complaint (pdf).

He discovered that a British individual named Lorraine Dunabin — who has a UK trademark on the word Landcruise — had registered both landcruise.co.uk and landcruise.uk.com.

Having failed to take the .co.uk using Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service (repeatedly referred to in the complaint as UDRP), Schreiber has instead filed this lawsuit to accuse Dunabin of “Dilution, Infringement [and] Passing off” by registering the .uk.com.

CentralNic is named because it owns .uk.com and various other geographic pseudo-gTLDs, which Schreiber says “dilute the integrity of .com” and amount to a “shakedown”.

Verisign is named as a contributory infringer because it runs .com. Network Solutions and eNom are named because they manage uk.com and landcruise.uk.com respectively as registrars.

ICANN is named because… I don’t know. I think it’s because all of the other companies are ICANN contractors.

ICANN, which has a web page for the litigation here, has already filed a motion to dismiss (pdf).

Schreiber is seeking monetary damages from all of the defendants, most of which he wants donated to the Rotary Club.

Massive firewall vendor lets domain expire

Check Point Software, one of the world’s leading firewall vendors, forgot to renew its main domain name and it wound up parked by its registrar over the weekend.

The domain checkpoint.com had an expiry date of March 30.

According a screenshot over on The Register, it was resolving to a Network Solutions placeholder page until this afternoon.

The Whois record at DomainTools still shows NetSol’s pending renewal or deletion details, but the domain – a 1994 registration – appears to be resolving normally now.

The company has a market cap of $13.37 billion.

More layoffs planned at NetSol

Kevin Murphy, October 17, 2011, Domain Registrars

Web.com plans to lay off more people than previously expected at recently acquired domain name registrar Network Solutions, according to a report.

“There is significantly more overlap than we originally estimated, and so it’s likely going to be more headcount reduction,” CEO David Brown said in a Reuters interview.

He named marketing, development, and engineering as areas where the merged company plans to cut more than $30 million in costs.

If there was any doubt about it, he confirmed that NetSol’s incumbent CEO faces the chop. Lower-level staff appear to have safer positions.

At least two senior NetSol executives have already jumped shipped since the acquisition was announced.

Senior director of policy Statton Hammock left to form his own consulting business a month ago, and last week senior policy manager Paul Diaz joined the Public Interest Registry.

Web.com announced its $561 million acquisition of NetSol in early August. It had already acquired the company’s old rival, Register.com.

NBT agrees to $236m buy-out

Kevin Murphy, September 23, 2011, Domain Registrars

Following in the footsteps of larger rival Go Daddy, the UK-based registrar Group NBT has agreed to be bought out by private investors for £153 million ($236m).

NBT owns registrars including NetNames, Ascio and Indom.

The all-cash offer comes from investors led by HgCapital and represents a 22.5% premium on the company’s closing share price yesterday.

At 550p a share, the offer stands to make a profit for anybody who has bought NBT shares in the last ten years, according to the company.

The news came as NBT reported an annual profit, excluding certain items, up organically 9% at £8.9 million ($13.8m) on revenue that was up 4% at £45.7 million ($70.6m).

Including the results from French registrar Indom, which the company acquired last December, profit was up 18% at £9.6 million ($14.8m) on revenue up 13% to £49.5 million ($76.5m)

The NBT deal is merely the latest in a series of buyouts and mergers to hit the registrar market this year.

As well as Go Daddy’s $2 billion+ change of control, Network Solutions recently sold out to Web.com for $561 million in cash and stock, and Tucows acquired EPAG Domainservices for $2.5 million.

At least one city analyst thinks the buyout timing relates to ICANN’s forthcoming new generic top-level domains program, and is bullish on Top Level Domain Holdings shares as a result.

Will the wave of consolidation continue? Who’s next?